Why I Stopped Washing My Hair

It’s made me realize something much bigger.

A few months ago I came across a post on Medium written by a young lady traveling around the globe with minimum belongings.

She was living what’s known as the “backpack life.”

I’ll be honest. Even though my circumstances don’t permit, I want to be one of those people who leave the country with one suitcase and go anywhere as per their whims and fancies.

This is what pushed me to read accounts of others who’ve been doing the same.

But instead of being motivated to pack my bags and elope, I was motivated to do something else — not wash my hair.

The more I read into it, many minimalists said that their toiletries aren’t as valuable as the average non-minimalist believes.

Ever since I was introduced to minimalism, I have a blast every time I declutter a part of my room. Throwing things out gives me a weird pleasure — something none of my friends and family relates to.

Yet, one area that I always felt couldn’t be stripped down further was my toiletries, especially shampoos, conditioners, soaps, etc.

Curious to see if I could go without shampoo and other hair products, I got in touch with the writer. She told me that there’s a whole movement around not using your shampoo, apparently.

It’s called the No-Poo method. Even though I failed to find any scientific evidence, the empirical evidence I got from the stories of fashion bloggers (both men and women) were enough to get me on board.

Or perhaps, I was too excited by the thought of throwing out all the shampoo bottles in my closet, who knows?

I’m Going No-poo.

I’ve always hated shampooing my hair. It gets dry, lightweight, fluffy, and difficult to style or maintain throughout the day.

My hair days ran like a clock:

  • The day I used shampoo was definitely a bad hair day. A slight increase in the speed of the fan was enough to throw my hair out of whack.

  • The next day was a good hair day

  • Two days after using shampoo, my hair felt oily AF

Yet, for as long as I can remember, I’ve been told to use shampoo and conditioner three times a week and oil your hair every Sunday. That’s a firm rule at my house.

When I questioned someone about why they shampoo, they told me, “Oh it’s obvious. Otherwise, the hair becomes all greasy and itchy.”

Inevitably, I asked, “Why do you oil it then?”

“Because the shampoo strips your hair of the oil so you gotta oil them regularly.”

It seemed I was the only one stupid enough to ask the question,* “If you shampoo to get the oil/“grease” off and then oil it again, why do you shampoo at all?”*

Alas, I never asked this out loud.

Then came the perfect opportunity for me to try out the no-poo method — the coronavirus lockdown.

Since everyone’s trapped indoors, no one had to know if the experiment went south.

And so, I started the relatively easy challenge of not shampooing my hair. I was in and out of the bath within a couple of minutes and loved it.

Initially, my hair did become more greasy than I’d liked them to be but as told by every other no-poo-er, it’s natural. Your scalp is accustomed to generate that much more oil since you strip it off with your shampoo.

It took me less than a fortnight to get used to the new regime.

The Myths:

Most guys shampoo because they’re constantly fed misinformation about it.

Their common misconception is that the scalp produces ‘grease’ and ‘dirty’ hair smells.

But the truth is this — your hair isn’t greasy.

In fact, your scalp produces as much oil as your forearm, your face, your thigh, etc. It’s astonishing how often we think we know more than our bodies which, by the way, have evolved over thousands of years with hundreds of built-in repair and prevention mechanisms.

Even though we know this, somehow we go too hard on the scalp thinking it’s different than others.

Have you ever gone for trekking, camping, and other outdoor activities? You likely don’t shampoo your hair on a trek, yet it looks amazing.

This time last year, I went for a trek in Northern India where temperatures were as low as -4 C. I could take a bath only if I wanted to have a frost bath. Still, I was loving my hair. And even if I experienced a few itches here and there, they were gone when I washed them with warm water a week later.

Let’s see some more proof. I’ve been growing my hair for the last few months, and thus, wear a hat every day. If my hair was dirty and smelly, then my hat should also smell, right? Well, I hate to break it to all the shampoo-lovers, it doesn’t.

Lucy Aitken, who wrote a book on no-poo, writes, “I wrote a book about my chemical-free hair experiment and it completely exploded. But I also think it tapped into something a bit more; people’s belief that our bodies work without all bells and whistles sold to us as necessities.”

She also gets a constant stream of emails from people who’ve got the same benefits:

  • A whole family’s asthma disappeared after a few weeks of skipping shampoo

  • An older woman’s hair becomes thick, wavy, and shiny after a lifetime of limpness

  • A young woman finally falls in love with her natural curls.

The hair products we love so passionately may not be so great after all.

Shampoo Didn’t Always Rock.

Van Capizzano, who works at Tribe Barber in Boston’s South End, hasn’t washed his hair since he was 12. He wrote in Men’s Health,

“Google “1960s men’s hairstyles”. Now Google “1970s men’s hairstyles.” That change? Shampoo was invented.”

He further goes into the specifics, “In the 1960s you’ve got guys looking like Don Draper from “Mad Men” — slicked-back styles, clean parts, dapper, hair under control. In the ’70s it gets bigger, fluffier. Everyone starts looking like the Bee Gees.”

And this explanation is on-point. My parents aren’t even old enough to remember a time before shampoo. But history tells us that the only way to get a shampoo before the 70s was to go to a salon. Even when a few at-home styling appliances were launched, they required tons of effort and thus, were a once-in-a-week thing.

As the industry launched products that were easier to use, we started using them every other day.

Stuff You Don’t Need Creates Problems You Don’t Have.

The other day, even when I told my sister that I use shampoo twice a week (I was too scared, to tell the truth), she was like “Geez! You’re so dirty.”

Washing your hair with shampoo seems so obvious and not doing it is almost rebellious.

Yet, Van further digs into the shampoo ingredients — “the first ingredient in shampoo is ammonium laureth sulfate. It’s a floor cleaner. That’s why your hair is thick. Soap is soap is soap is soap. Your floor cleaner is basically your shampoo. And those ingredients burn your hair.”

What Should You Do?

Different things work for different people. For me, water is just fine. You can also go with natural products to wash your hair. Do some research and you shall find a lot of home-made DIY shampoo replacements.

We all know how home-made food is better processed and packages ones. Perhaps that’s true for things we put on our bodies as well.

Van recommends using palm brushes to exfoliate your hair a couple of times a week after washing them with hot water.

Why Does It Matter?

I should’ve talked about this at first, but I want it to be the central takeaway.

Ever since I’ve started my journey of removing invaluable things from my life, I’ve seen how companies create false problems we don’t have and then magically step-in to solve them for us.

Think about food. Cereal producing companies and sports drinks load that crap with sugar. Then with all their marketing dollars, they tell us how it has fiber, protein, and low-fat just to shove that crap down our throats every morning.

Speaking of morning meals and breakfast, food companies manipulate the hell out of scientific research to prove that three-meals-a-day is the healthiest diet to follow. (Look up intermittent fasting if you don’t know what I’m talking about.)

The case with shampoo seems no different to me. I may be wrong, I may be right.

Some of you may think this article is highly uneducated. But that’s beside the point. I don’t care if you use shampoo or not.

But I do care if you mindlessly get sucked into marketing tactics, buying stuff you don’t need.

So start questioning societal norms and habits one at a time.

Start with something as simple as giving up shampoo. Who knows where the road leads you.

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Written on October 21, 2020